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Mother's Day is hard for many women, myself included. Several of my friends long for marriage and children. Several are infertile or have lost new lives to miscarriage or stillbirth. One friend hardly speaks to her estranged mother, and several have mothers who have died. Another struggles with how her marital problems challenge her parenting. As for me, my triplet baby sons died last September. Each was lovely like every mother's son, but their lives and my mothering were cut short. Like my friends, I face Mother's Day with ambivalence—glad for all the good mothering in the world, but sad about my losses.

In the first weeks after their deaths, I couldn't bear to look at a calendar because it showed only days and days of sadness ahead. Even a clock seemed too much, displaying minutes and hours ahead in which I would have to bear the absolute goneness of my children. This sharp bitterness has mostly passed, but this month the calendar shows Mother's Day coming. Holidays are frequently hard for bereaved people, especially the holidays that celebrate the very someone you've lost. And the hype of Mother's Day is just so hyped, salting the wound of childlessness, bereavement, or estrangement.

Hallmark holidays vs. the liturgical calendarUnlike the unrealistic and sentimental feminine images dished out by Hallmark, the Bible and the church offer real stories of real women's lives. And in contrast to the twelve-month calendar, the liturgical year offers time redeemed, meaning something more than just bearing sorrow through an interminable future. Now, I don't know much about the liturgical year, but I'm learning to appreciate it. Typical for evangelical mutts, I've worshiped Jesus with little denominational loyalty, grounding myself ...

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When Mother's Day Is Hard
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May 2004

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